Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Case of Disappearing Articles: #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Workers' Harsh Conditions

Something strange is going on in some of the Japanese news media. The Kyodo News English article about the harsh work conditions for the workers at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant which I link below was reported in other papers in Japanese, but in some papers the article got shorter and shorter as they updated.

I first read the article in Japanese at Yomiuri. It was a two-webpage article. But then, it was trimmed down to only a few sentences, and that's how it is now. But I have located part of the original long article cut and pasted by people who post on the Japanese message boards.

What's going on here? Anything that throws negative light on TEPCO is banned in Japanese? I can't find this news in Kyodo News Japanese site, either.

It is about how the workers at Fukushima I Nuke Plant have had to endure harsh work conditions where they have to sleep on the corridors, incredibly small amount of food and water to subsist, no underwear to change, no shower. And only 2 meals a day, one 1.5 liter bottle of water, which now they can ask for one more.

From Kyodo News English (emphasis added; 3/29/2011):

FOCUS: Courageous workers at troubled nuclear plant endure tough conditions

Each of the employees of Tokyo Electric Power Co. and other workers engaged in containing damage at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is given 30 survival food crackers and a 180 milliliter pack of vegetable juice for breakfast after getting up just before 6 a.m.

Around 400 workers including subcontractors are working there and are given just two meals per day, according to Kazuma Yokota, an official of the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

Yokota stayed at the nuclear power plant damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami for five days through March 26 to check on progress in the ongoing operations.

After breakfast, the workers move on to their respective assignments at various locations within the plant at the center of the worst nuclear crisis in Japan. The workers are given no lunch.

Until March 22, they were given only one 1.5 liter bottle of mineral water per day. From March 23, however, with more supplies having arrived, they can ask for one more bottle, according to the official.

As the sun starts to set at around 5 p.m., they come back to the building where they are lodging within the plant's premises. The workers look worn out, according to Yokota.

Supper is also survival food item -- dried rice and only one can of chicken or fish for each person. Boiled mineral water is put into the pack of ''Magic Rice,'' making it ready for consumption in about 15 minutes. The workers eat their meals quietly, though some say they want something a little better.

At 8 p.m., the workers have a meeting and report to each other about any progress made in their work. At the end of the meeting, before everyone realizes it, it has become a practice for them to clap their hands together at the call of an officer. It is then followed by a chant from others, ''Gambaro!'' (Let's keep it up!).

The radiation level within the building is 2-3 microsievert per hour. They sleep in conference rooms and hallways in the building. To shield them from radiation from the floor, they cover themselves with lead-containing sheets before they put on blankets.

Most workers are replaced by others in one week. Mobile phones cannot be used as no signals reach there. ''The workers are doing their best while they cannot even contact their family members,'' Yokota said.

Yomiuri Shinbun's article, now reduced to only 4 sentences, still reports that the workers are given one blanket each.

Now, where is the Kamikaze spirit? Where's Yamato Damashii? These people are risking their lives to save the reactors from blowing up or severely contaminating the soil, air, and ocean and endangering more lives and life-forms. No one brave enough to deliver tons of water and food and all the blanket that they could ever wish for?

Not just from a moral standpoint, but from a utilitarian standpoint, it makes the most sense for someone to do so. TEPCO, the SDF, the Police, or Yakuza, I don't care. Why? It is in everyone's interest - political, economic, social, environmental - to keep these workers well fed, well watered, and well rested so that they work better, are more alert, and have more energy so that they can carry out the impossible tasks.


It is so "Japan during the World War II", where the citizens were expected to fight on with hardly anything to eat, hardly any fuel to run anything, and hardly any sleep.


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